A 30-year state trooper described as a role model for younger officers was killed Wednesday morning after being struck by a vehicle, state police said.
Trooper Timothy P. Pratt, 55, of South Glens Falls, died from injuries suffered in the 6:15 a.m. crash on Ballard Road. He had been assisting a semitrailer driver who’d stopped in the median in front of the state police Wilton barracks, having missed a turn, according to police.
Pratt spoke to the truck driver in the morning darkness before stepping down from the truck into the eastbound lane, where a passing SUV hit him, state police said. He died hours later.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Pratt was identified by state police Thursday as Joel F. Duguay, age 59, of Corinth.
Pratt stopped for the semitrailer to offer assistance shortly after he began his morning patrol, Troop G Commander Major William Keeler said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Keeler, who knew Pratt personally and graduated from the same state police academy class as the fallen trooper, called the effort to help the trucker a case of “Trooper Pratt being Trooper Pratt.”
“I can tell you that, throughout his career, the younger guys looked up to this guy,” Keeler said, noting Pratt previously served in the Air Force. “He was a 30-year trooper who still had the fire in him, and he enjoyed doing the job.
“He died the way he lived, helping people.”
The investigation into the crash was continuing later Wednesday, Keeler said, adding that no charges were anticipated against the SUV’s driver, based on witness statements and the investigation so far. The SUV driver was cooperating with the investigation.
Pratt became a trooper in 1987 and had most recently been assigned to the traffic incident management unit at the Wilton station, state police said. He served his entire career with Troop G, the troop that serves much of the Capital Region, and served more than 25 years on the unit covering the Northway.
Pratt leaves behind three adult children: Shane, James and Sarah. He is also survived by his fiancee, Susan Clark.
Pratt served in the Air Force for seven years before following his father, Edward F. Pratt, into the state police and Troop G. His father attained the rank of zone sergeant in Troop G before retiring in 1974.
State Police Superintendent George Beach spoke at Wednesday’s press conference, thanking all the first responders and medical personnel who worked to help Pratt, “who did everything they could.”
Beach’s voice wavered as he finished his remarks.
The first on the scene were Pratt’s fellow troopers from the Wilton barracks, police said. They tended to him while emergency personnel responded. Paramedics then took Pratt to Saratoga Hospital before he was taken by helicopter to Albany Medical Center. He died from his injuries at about 9:30 a.m.
By noon Wednesday, flags at the Wilton barracks overlooking the accident scene, as well as at Ballard Elementary school across the road and nearby Wilton Fire Department, had been lowered to half-staff.
Leaving Troop G headquarters in Colonie Wednesday afternoon, Senior Investigator Israel Toro recalled Pratt as an all-around great guy and a trooper respected by all.
“Anybody that’s come in contact with him has had a great amount of respect for him,” said Toro, who worked with Pratt off and on over the years. “He was a hard worker, a dedicated member of the New York State Police.”
Trooper Mark Cepiel, who is the Troop G spokesman, called Pratt “a trooper’s trooper who truly was a leader.”
Pratt naturally gravitated toward leadership roles in whatever function he performed, even if it wasn’t assigned to him, Cepiel recalled.
“He went the extra mile truly to help anyone, whether it be a fellow trooper or the public,” he said. “He would routinely volunteer to take other calls to assist troopers and to assist folks.”
Messages of condolence poured in to the state police on Facebook Wednesday, with hundreds of comments and shares of two state police posts about Pratt’s passing.
One woman even recalled the time Pratt stopped to help her on the Northway, his effort and name sticking in her mind 15 years after the fact.
“I had hit a pothole, and my tire went flat,” the woman wrote. “He didn’t just stop and call someone to come and help … he took his hat off and changed the tire for me himself! I couldn’t believe the kindness! Who else would do that? God bless you Officer Pratt.”
In addition to his law enforcement work, Pratt supported and organized The Special Olympics Torch Run through the region for years. In June 2007, he spoke at a press conference as the torch made its way through the area.
“It is the most worthwhile cause we can be involved in,” Pratt said, according to a Daily Gazette article from the time. “You can’t fathom what it does for those kids.”
Pratt also served as a member of the state police motorcycle unit. On Sept. 11, he joined the annual 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride.
In a statement issued late Wednesday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted Pratt’s participation in that ride. The governor also said Pratt served with integrity and pride.
“Trooper Pratt was a loving father, friend and neighbor who worked each and every day to make his community and all of New York a better place,” Cuomo said in the prepared statement.
Pratt is the 21st member of the state police force to die in the line of duty since 2006, according to the New York State Trooper’s Police Benevolent Association.
He is the first local trooper to die in the line of duty since Trooper David Cunniff, of Duanesburg and Troop T, died in December 2013 from injuries suffered when a semitrailer slammed into his trooper car on the Thruway in Amsterdam. Pratt is the first Troop G officer to die from line-of-duty injuries since Trooper Covel “Chase” Pierce succumbed to a 9/11-related illness in 2011.
“Trooper Pratt was a dedicated Trooper who was proud to put on his uniform every day and serve the citizens of New York state,” PBA President Thomas H. Mungeer said in a prepared statement. “His presence will be missed by his family, friends and fellow Troopers. We will never forget his sacrifice.”
The PBA, as the labor union representing troopers, will assist with arrangements for the line-of-duty death funeral, as well as assisting Pratt’s family and fellow troopers with whatever needs arise, the association said.
“This is what Tim Pratt loved doing,” Keeler said of Pratt’s actions in helping the semitrailer driver. “He loved helping people – disabled vehicles. He just believed in the mission of the New York State Police.”
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.